Why didn’t I think to bring tissues??
I’d prepped all day for this. Rested, vegetated on my couch for the bulk of the day to bank my energy. Agonized over what to wear. As the guest of honor, should I dress up? Do I wear green since it’s a Lyme awareness event? Should I don one of my #lymeawareness t-shirts, and if so, is it okay to wear jeans to an art show?
I carefully considered my make-up. I’m expected to look sick, but some days I don’t. Some days I look normal, but feel terrible. Some days, like today, I have dark circles under my eyes from overdoing it the day or two before. Do I use concealer to hide this, or is it better to be real? I try to be authentic in my writing. Shouldn’t I practice that same honesty in public? But I know my friends want to hear and see that I’m getting better, so should I cover the hints of sickness as best I can for them?
Although I’m humbled by it, I dread being the focus of attention. I’m a behind-the-scenes kind of person. Knowing that people will be looking at me, judging consciously or subconsciously, is unnerving. Will they think I look too healthy to be so sick?
I don’t need my cane today. I know people wonder why sometimes I can walk almost normally and other times I require a cane for support. Those who last saw me in a wheelchair are probably the most confused.
This is the reality of chronic Lyme disease. I never know from day to day what my body will do –or will refuse to do. That’s the hardest part, the inability to plan. My closest friends and family try to understand, but the drastic ups and downs are difficult to grasp. The idea that an individual can appear vibrant and healthy, but inside is grappling with joint pain, brain fog, and anxiety is beyond most people’s comprehension.
Today though is a good day. Minimal pain in my knees and hips. No headache. No achiness. Mostly I just feel nervous walking into the school gym, not knowing what to expect. This art show is a first for St. Patrick School, which means there is no precedent, no way of knowing how the fundraiser will be received in the community. I’ve worried that few will show up, leaving Gracie and Emily disappointed.
Boy, was I wrong. You know those sayings about the ineffectiveness of worry and how we should give it to God instead? Well, let’s just say I should’ve known God had this handled. It was more than I could’ve imagined.
As He knew it would be.
My nervousness eased immediately as I was greeted by Gracie’s teacher who beamed with pride at how beautifully the event had come together. The girls, with matching lime headbands and green ribbons painted on their cheeks, radiated pride. This was their idea. They’d worked for weeks, brainstorming and organizing, and now they were seeing and feeling the payoff.
The gym was brimming with students, parents, grandparents, teachers. Artwork lined the walls and the tables set up in the center of the gym. Individual work was sold as a silent auction with starting bids of $3.00. From q-tip paintings to foil prints, the variety of artwork was astounding, showcasing the students’ uniqueness and creativity.
I only had about thirty seconds to take it all in. There were so many friends who wanted to say hi. People I’d missed in my months of being a hermit. There were friends I didn’t even know I had, people who read this blog, who cry with me and pray for me, who I’d never met until now. They hugged me and shared how my story has changed their lives.
I stopped thinking about my appearance or anyone’s judgement.
I was surrounded by friends, and most had been walking with me on this journey. It was like coming home.
Children grabbed their parents’ hands, dragging them to their artwork. Kids giggled, their eyes wide, pride exuding from their innocent faces.
Moms, dads, aunts, uncles, and grandparents ooohed and awed over paintings and leaf prints.
Older students manned a table for the Lyme challenge, persuading the young and old to “take a bite out of Lyme” to spread awareness.
When the class projects were auctioned off at the end of the event, kids proudly held up their masterpieces and parents tried to outbid one another. There was laughter, so much laughter.
The support in that gym, not just of me and my plight, but of the students is what makes my daughters’ school special. On a Monday evening, well over half of the student body, from preschoolers to sixth graders, was in attendance, and with them, their parents. Every teacher was there, volunteering her time, hugging her students and chatting with parents. The principal visited with the crowd, snapping photos and beaming with delight. It was a happy place.
How lucky are these kids that their school is their happy place??
The art show was a success in so many ways. Yes, they raised money that will drastically help us pay off some medical bills. But had they raised only $20, the show still would’ve been a success. The pride those kids felt in themselves, the joy in their hearts at helping others, their unwavering faith that God will heal me –the important stuff –flourished. It was simply a beautiful evening.
When my little ten-year-old and her best friend stood at the microphone to welcome the crowd, I was amazed at how grown up they looked. Still little girls, but they spoke with the confidence of adults. Emily explained the backstory on her idea, starting with “Gracie is my best friend….” Tears filled my eyes and the leaking began.
Why hadn’t I thought to bring tissues?
My cup runneth over, right down my cheeks. It does even now as I write this. I keep thinking about the evening and the same thought repeats itself.
I am so lucky. Sure, I’m sick, but I’m still so darn lucky.
My little girl chattered the whole way home. She talked about how much fun she had with her friends, how great the turnout was, how she can’t wait to co-direct her next event. We discussed our hope that the art show would become an annual St. Pat’s event, and that someday Gracie and Emily would be bidding on their own children’s artwork to help a family in need. Her heart was so full.
Within ten minutes of arriving home, I found her already sound asleep in her bed. I looked at her sweet face, happy even in her slumber. Again I thought…I am so lucky.
I kissed her cheek and wiped a tear from mine.
(Thank you to all who attended, to those who went around and made sure every child’s artwork was purchased, to those who brought cookies and fruit, to the incredibly charismatic auctioneer, to the teachers who sacrifice graciously, to the person whose Facebook photos I borrowed, to this wonderful little community. Thank you, thank you, thank you.)